Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Barbican Public Library

The Barbican Library is located within a community of about 9,000.  Its service area includes the square mile of the "city" of London in which 350,000 people work!  There is a school of music and drama close by that utilizes the collection, however the Barbican Library does not cater to their curriculum.  For events and programs, they sometimes work in conjunction with St. Giles church one of the only local building not destroyed during WWII.  This does, however, cause some friendly rivalry in terms of book sales! 

Below is a bird's eye view of the Music Library at the Barbican.  Although it is a general public library, there is a focus on the arts and this is a very strong department- and one of the few that has a chartered Music Librarian.  The exhibit you see along the wall is actually made up of his personal collection! Along with score sheets and reference materials, there are rows and rows of CDs arranged to look better than a Best Buy.  Something that is interesting and different than the U.S. is that items like world cinema DVDs rent for 2.75 per week and music for 2.50, payable with credit or debit.  This, I think, is a great idea for more than one reason.  My local movie rental store went out of business.  I will never purchase a movie, dvd, book, magazine, newspaper, etc, ever again!  Charging for items like this at the library will not only increase library funds, which face it- is greatly needed these days, but it will also protect local businesses who can't compete with the library's free services.  There is a 3 month rule on new CDs that come out, they can only be listened to inside the library.  This is to stop people from renting the new CD and burning it (within the first 3 months). 

The following photo captures a lot of what is interesting at this library.  The librarian, John Lake, is hilarious as well as very knowledgeable.  Sometimes the public views the library in general as a boring, harsh place.  Librarians like John Lake and everyone else at the Barbican are changing that perception, one patron at a time.  If all librarians could take a page from this book, I think more people would utilize the services at their local libraries.  In his hand, he holds a remote RFID that is not in use at this time.  The library is set up for RFID - self checkout, however some patrons do not know this service is available because the set up is built into the current checkout counters so well that it is barely  noticeable.  The only issue they come across is scanning items like CDs and DVDs and items like Yoko Ono's book that has a foil cover!
Side note: John is also responsible for something that I have been admiring since I arrived in London this summer.  Some of the tubes have 'Music Poems on the Tube' blurbs, pictured below.  Fitting since this library boasts one of the largest music libraries with over 16,000 CDs, listening booths, music tabs and much more.  There was one that had a few lines from the Tempest that described my feelings of summer in London this year...It was really interesting to me to see a librarian's work in action.

Visit http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/corporation/LGNL_Services/Leisure_and_culture/Libraries/City_of_London_libraries/barbican_lib.htm

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